Expectations are a funny thing. As humans we are inherently biased and even when we are aware of our biases, they cloud our expectations. Nowhere is this more apparent than in sports. Biases about our favorite teams, favorite players and especially big moments. Score a goal to win the Champions League or a spectacular goal that becomes the latest strike to go viral; people remember it and it colors perceptions of a player’s talent. It’s the exact situation we have with Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris. That’s rookie forward Jordan Morris. Except the MLS community doesn’t really see him as rookie. It’s what happens when you score for the US National Team while still playing college soccer and are offered a contract in Germany before signing with Seattle. Unfortunately, all the hype surrounding Morris has led to his rookie season being judged unfairly.
Let’s start with the easiest contribution to quantify: scoring. After his brace in a huge win over the LA Galaxy Sunday, there’s been a bit more attention paid to how well Morris is playing, but not much. It almost seems like this is what was expected of Morris, which is crazy considering only five rookies have scored double-digit goals in MLS. Five! And Jordan Morris is one of them – 12 goals and counting. He also holds the rookie record for most game-winning goals, a record made all the more impressive by the importance of those goals for Seattle’s playoff hopes.
Those game-winning goals are a good example of what’s truly impressive about Morris’ season. The Sounders never intended to be fighting for their playoff lives with Jordan Morris as the team’s leading goal threat. But, out of-nowhere Obafemi Martins left the club. Then Clint Dempsey is ruled out for the season due to a heart condition, and here we are. So now you’ve got a rookie forward being counted on to deliver goals for one of the most followed, most scrutinized teams in American soccer. Don’t count out the “hometown hero” burden either. Alexi Lalas actually suggested Morris would’ve faced less pressure in Europe, free from the weight of being American soccer’s “next big thing” and the expectations of being a local product with the brightest future since DeAndre Yedlin. Taking all this into consideration, it’s remarkable Morris hasn’t wilted physically or mentally. He hasn’t hit the proverbial “rookie wall” we’ve seen crop up time and time again. Instead, we’ve seen him seemingly get stronger as the season goes on – just watch this goal from Sunday again.
Speed, power, finesse, and calm on the finish, that’s the goal of a player at his peak, not one grinding through the stretch run of his first year as pro.
So let’s appreciate Morris’ season and just how good he’s been. Yes, he’s good, and yes, we should hold him to a high standard over the course of his career, but that high standard only exists now because of how good his first season as a pro has been. This isn’t intended as a “Jordan Morris for rookie of the year!” puff piece. But after the season he’s had, I know who I’m voting for.